Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Melungeon Myth"

Janet Crain has posted to both rootsweb and to the 'historical' Melungeon website about the "Melungeon Myth." I am posting this to you all and it will be on my website shortly.

You will also find some research notes on the promising inclusion of the CROATS amongst the Melungeons and the possible connection to Colonial Williamsburg/Jamestown below the following article.

My own personal opinion is that more research needs to be done and that Janet has failed to meet the requirements to prove her proposal.

Janet wrote:

"A persistant rumor has spread all over the Internet that Melungeons descend from the some 300 to 600 Turks and other nationalities said to have been left on Roanoke Island in 1586 by Sir Francis Drake. In truth, there is NO evidence there were any left, much less several hundred."

Brent Kennedy had a THEORY. He never called it a fact. BUT, Brent said he had FOUND such evidence. I have not seen it and Brent is no longer able to reply to posts such as these. And there is NO 'evidence/proof' that they were not left.

Janet wrote:
"Drake was returning home from the sacking of Cartagena when he decided to visit Roanoke and dispose of some of the freed prisoners and Maroons he had acquired during his adventures. He was carrying a human cargo of several hundred. He is said by Ivor Noel Hume in "Virginia Adventures" to have highly inflated the numbers."

I know that Hume became chief archeologist of Colonial Williamsburg in 1957, and has subsequently become the director of the Williamsburg Department of Archeology.

But what I need to know is HOW did Hume KNOW this? What source did he give for this information, what data he has he found in his work or perhaps was it just his OPINION? I would want to respect that opinion, but I need more information to do so.

You said:
"This voyage is of great interest to Melungeon researchers because this voyage in 1586 is the basis of the Turkish connection first started by Brent Kennedy's book; Melungeons; an Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing. It is, in fact, the keystone of the Turkish Connection Theory. Remove it and the rest crumbles. That is what I propose to do."

I am glad you called it a THEORY. If you have not written MORE than what I have read here your proposal has failed. You are basing YOUR OPINION on something from one man perhaps two, as far as I can see and you list no other sources of data to support your proposal. What on site research have you done? And no I haven't done any either, other than visiting there.

History tells us that MOST of what you continued to write in this article is true.

And we do know that the Turks, 'known to have been with Drake, were apparently better safeguarded. They were valuable as trade for English prisoners languishing in Ottoman prisons. Some 100 Turks were, in fact, ransomed to their homeland.'

You said: "So, just who might have gone ashore before the storm hit? Many people have a hard time visualizing the scene at Roanoke."

I have been there and done that and while it may have been "laborious offloading of men and supplies to shore boats and threading through the one pass, Fernando Pass, and the treacherous shoals and currents made worse at times by Northwestern winds blowing directly into the Bay," that is NOT enough to stop some of those folks from 'offloading.' We read what the conditions were like. And I know that with those storms, I personally would have found some way to go ashore, supplies or no, rather than to take my chance of going down. Just a personal opinion here.

You wrote: "I am saying this to lay to rest the idea of a huge number of the passengers dis-embarquing and perhaps being caught off guard by the storms and staying behind. Hume and David Beers Quinn are the authorities on this period and both say there were no Turks left. Hume says no one else, Quinn, at most a very few."

First I do not know of ANYONE who has said that there were HUGE NUMBERS disembarking and Quinn's 'very few' would have been enough to leave quite a few genes behind.

You asked:
"Left with no supplies on the Outer Banks what would they have found to eat? If the Indians had not killed them, they would have starved."

In situations of starvation we have plenty of evidence that they well MIGHT have eaten each other! I personally do NOT believe that happened, but my supposition is just as valid as yours that they would have starved or been killed.

AND re the following statement:
"It should be noted that the Native Americans communicated by a"grapevine" so efficient that Indians in Canada knew of happenings in the Virginias. No mention of any dumped off passengers was ever made."

HOW do you know this? There was no written Native American language at that time!

"Additionally, there was plenty of room for these passengers to sail with Drake. Hundreds had died in the battles in Florida, from fevers, and in the hurricane. Drake was returning with more ships than he left with, having captured many. And they would have furnished badly needed labor to sail these ships back to England."

Yes, they MIGHT have but you do not have any PROOF of this statement.

etc..... " it is highly unlikely Drake would have taken such actions."

In your OPINION.

Ivor Noel Hume says:

"Thus the hurricane of June 1586 may have ripped away the first page from the history of blacks in English America."

PLEASE note Hume's use of the word MAY - Hume did not say this is EXACTLY what happened because he did not have any data to support this other than his opinion, which I do respect but EACH of us is capable of error.

You wrote:
"A cruel and terrible fate for these forgotten people that historians of the time did not consider important enough to even record their fate."

And yes, indeed, for SOME of them this was likely a terrible fate.. But the fact that these people were UNIMPORTANT, and their fate wasn't recorded, leads me to believe there is still more left to be discovered, whether it be records or DNA or archaeological artifacts. All research is NOT done and your proposal has FAILED to meet the proof needed that would make your OPINION a true fact.

I appreciate theories. They help me think. I have many theories. It is the FACTS that are important. I keep trying to gather facts.

Continue scrolling down for the information on the CROATS and the Melungeons.
Love and health in family ties,

Monday, May 25, 2009

Croats and Melungeons

Croatia and Croatians and the Lost Colony 1585-1590 (with connections to the Melungeons)
by Adam S. Eterovich
Ragusan Press
San Carlos, California
copyright 2003
Some notes from the above mentioned book, plus some notes that Evelyn Orr, noted Melungeon Researcher, had been researching on the Croatians. Both she and Brent Kennedy thought that more research should be done on these folks but Evelyn did not have time, I was interested, so she gave me her notes. I have not had time to do anything with them either. Going over some of these noted I found the following:
Some research she quotes comes from Charles L. Prazak from what is noted as the
Carologue, Summer 1993 Journal
Prazak is a resident (at that time) of Berwyn, Ill, a retired teacher, who has done graduate work in Linguistics and Literature. Apparently he passed away and his daughter sent some of his research to Evelyn. She said he taught among other things English as a Second Language and had had Croatian students. He referenced other researchers in his work. Just SCANNING thru these papers I found the following notes:
April 2000 Notes for Brent and Carroll - Prazak Research - deceased March 1997
Prazak noted: "Louis Adamic article in SVETU J(Y)ugo-Slavian Magazine, April 1992 subject - 5 ships from Dubrovnic, Croatia  1449 - 3 return and tell of 2 ships wrecked in large bay. Adamic believed to be Chespeke - plans for rescue abandoned because of upcoming war with Turks.  This Adamic article, and original documents need to be found. 1995 SVTU defunct for several years."
Another note:
Prazak himself refers to two more voyages from Croatia 1470 and 1530. Roanoke given as both places of landing. (SAYS) "I did not catch the source in his papers. May have from letters with Vincent Sinovic, 1995 or the Adamic research .... Needs to be pursued."
Another note:
Letter to Roundtree,  Oct 28, 1995, he mentions Brent Kennedy's tribe traced in  his book. The melungeons, I showed him; "that melun, with no respelling is the Croat word for GNOME, and zeljan prounced ZHEOYN, means Desirous, or devoted to reaching goals. Kennedy will cite my material in his new edition of his book
(SO, we have another possibility for the meaning of Melungeon and you know I like this one better than some of the others - Melungeons were noted as being small:-)
From another page Prazak notes:
Powhatan Family names:
Matoaka - Capt John Smith spelling
Matorka, in Croatian  means "Big Little Girl", a nickname used in Croat families today.
Pocahantas - Smith spelling - in Croatian means "Little Flirt"
At age 14,  she was named Amonate, Croatian-Latin for amo, love, plus nate, birth or being born.She was thus called "Born of Love'  and this same endearment is also common in Croatian families today.
Prazak speaks of his article "Croatians in America Before Columbus: 1449"  gives no indication where published. Writes inquiry to the Georgia Journal with incontrovertible etymological proofs, that scores of unmistakenly clear lexical specimens that attest to the accuracy of revelations made by Jugo-Slav author Louis Adamic regarding a trans-Atlantic expeditionary fleet of five Croatian-Damascan ships as recorded in the archives of 1449 at Triest and Dubrovnic.
Prazak believe many Indian place names/words were influenced by Croats. Gives examples
Article notes"
Jugo-Slav writer Louis Adamic found in the archives of the old Croatian-Dalmatian ports of Dubrovnic, and at Trieste, records of a trans-oceanic voyage dated 1449 A.D. by five shiploads of Croatians, of which two shiploads stayed abroad. He pursued the matter, sought out a small number of words and names from the area of the Lost Colony of Roanoke 1589 that are undeniably Croatian words, starting with the name "Croatoan" carved on a wood plaque at the site of John White's ill-fated colony. It was obviously not carved by an Englishman, he pointed out, but by an Indian who wrote Serbo-Croatian: It was spelled
KROAT (OMEGA SYMBOL) AN.  The long "O" in S-C is the omega of the Cyrillic alphabet.
Prazak says he has found additional evidence to prove beyond all doubt that a Croatian population, at least a population including Croatians, pre-existed in America when Columbus arrived. Much proof appears to be lexical.
Prazak quotes Gunnar Thompson - American Discovery: Our Multicultural Inheritance
(1994) - speaks of his -Prazak's, work being disdained for over 20 years by editors addicted to traditionalism and Columbus-adulation. Speaks of his South Carolina article printed by Carologue and 2 other articles scheduled to be printed. Says Gunnar Thompsons, does NOT discount his (Prazak's) linguistic evidences as mere accidents. - Says Croatians Were The Discoverers of America. (This is a long piece and I have not read the rest of it. I hope to add more notes as time allows.)
Prazak also quotes David Beers Quinn for the English discovery of America in 1481 - new letters found in 1956 by Dr.Louis Andre Vigneras from an English merchant John Day written in Spanish to a Spanish official called Almirante Mayor whom Vigneras thought was Columbus.(this too is a long article and I have not read the rest of it.)
He mentions Adam Eterovich, the author of the book I have. - said sent him some materials. Adam and Brent had corresponded for some time.
From Eterovich's book; p.102/103
quotes the "so-called Melungeons were discovered in the Appalachian Mts in 1654 by English explorers and were described as being 'dark-skinned with fine European features.'
Says: Melingi is a Slavic tribe in the mountains of the Peloponnesus which unlike most of the other Slavs of Greece did not become hellenized but retained its identity and remained Slavic-speaking throughout the Middle Ages into the Ottoman Turkish period.
More notes on this to come! 

Thursday, January 1, 2009



Dr. Samuel Tyndale Wilson says in his excellent little volume, “The Southern Mountaineers:” “Occasionally the student of sociology may stumble upon a community that is a puzzle, as, for example, the one occupied by the ‘Melungeons’ of upper East Tennessee.” That is all he says of the community; and so far as known, no other history refers to the Melungeons at all. Miss Dromgoole in an article mentioned further along states that they appeared during the existence of the State of Franklin; while Colonel Henderson in a letter declares that they were in the East Tennessee mountains when the earliest settlers arrived.

The word “Melungeon” was once more familiar to Tennesseans than it is now. To illustrate, it was a custom immediately after the close of the war between the states for the Democratic editors of the central and western sections of the state to refer flippantly to their eastern neighbors collectively as Melungeons, perhaps because East Tennessee was largely Republican in politics. It was in the nature of an epithet. That it was, and still is resented, may be seen from the following circumstance. In seeking for the latest information relative to this puzzling community we recently wrote to a citizen of upper East Tennessee to help us out.

This reply was received so promptly as to lead to the belief that he hardly waited to finish the query before snatching up his pen. And perhaps his eyes were red as he wrote; “We have no such race. Our citizens are civilized people and believe in earning their living by the sweat of their brow, and are far superior to those who try to disgrace them by placing the fictitious name of ‘Melungeon’ upon them.”

The word used to be uttered by parents and nurses as a bugbear to frighten children into obedience: thus, “if you are not good, the Melungeons will get you.” Notwithstanding our acquaintance with the word, few really know what it means. The Century ventures this definition of Melungeon:”One of a class of people living in East Tennessee, of peculiar appearance and uncertain origin.” It then makes this quotation from the Boston Traveler for June 13, 1889: “They resented the appellation Melungeon, given to them by consent by the whites, and proudly called themselves Portuguese.”

It is remarkable that Tennessee history is silent on the subject since by the census taken in 1795 the Melungeons must have been numbered with the 973 “free person” other than the whites. There could hardly have been so many free negroes within the bounds of the present state only about twenty-five years after the first settlement. That of itself should have received notice. Moreover, the Melungeons’ votes, as well as those of the free negroes, had something to do with the politicians making such a radical change in the constitution of 1834, whereby both were disfranchised; though, as we shall presently see, the Melungeons were finally restored to citizenship through the efforts of Col John Netherland, of Hawkins county, the witty and eloquent opponent of Isham G. Harris for the governorship in 1859.

Col. W. A. Henderson, for some time president of the Tennessee Historical society and at present one of the most prominent members of the Tennessee bar, furnished the writer the following information in 1912:

“The name, Melungeon, is of obscure origin; probably it is from the French melange, a mixture. The Melungeons are a peculiar people living in the mountains of East Tennessee, western North Carolina, southwest Virginia and eastern Kentucky, and are of queer appearance and uncertain origin. They have swarthy complexion, straight black hair, black or gray eyes–Indian’s eyes are always black—and are not tall but heavy-set. * * * *

They call themselves Portuguese (which they pronounce “Porter-ghee’) and were found in the regions mentioned by our first pioneers of civilization there. As a body, they were as concrete as the Jews, and their descendants are still to be found. “The Melungeons were never adherents to the Indian religion and rites, but adhered to the Christian religion. The cross was ever held by them as a sacred symbol. In religious belief they are chiefly Baptist. It is a fact that they took no part in the Indian wars, either against the whites or the Indians.

“From time immemorial they have been counterfeiters of gold and silver, and, strange to say, their money contained more of the precious metals per coin than that minted by the government. At one time within my recollection these coins passed current, without question. There is a legend that their silver came from Straight creek, a tributary of Cumberland river which flows into that stream at Cumberland Ford ( now Pineville, Ky.). Ruins of ancient furnaces are still to be seen along the banks of Straight creek, but have not been used within the makers of the silver money in that section. The Beckler gold dollars were coined in North Carolina, and some of these coins are yet extant, preserved as curiosities. They were of native gold made by a family named Beckler and were called ‘Becklers.’

“The Melungeons have always, moreover, boasted of their kinship with the white race. Many years ago a decision was handed down by the supreme court of Tennessee, holding that the Melungeons were not negroes. The case probably arose out of some prosecution for illegal voting. “Where this people originated will probably never be known. **** Some people believe that the Mulungeons were descendants of the lost Raleigh Colony of Roanoke which disappeared, supposedly absorbed with the Croatan Indians; but they have never claimed any affiliation with the English— and that was an English colony. They must come of some colony emanating from Portugal. They are a living mystery.”

The reference to the gold and silver coins of the Melungeons suggests what Adair says of silver in east Tennessee in a history of the Indians published in London in 1775: “Within twenty miles of the late Fort Loudoun **** the silver mines are so rich that by digging about ten yards deep some desperate vagrants found at sundry times as much rich ore as to enable them to counterfeit dollars to a great amount, a horse-load of which was detected in passing for the purchase of negroes at Augusta.”

“ Were those “desperate vagrants” Melungeons? Furthermore, speaking of the Beckler gold dollar made in North Carolina, the metal was found in that state at an early day. John Reed, a Hessian soldier, settled in Cabarrus county after the revolution. His son in 1799 found in Meadow creek a nugget of gold as large as a small smoothing iron, but the family had no idea of its value until 1803 he, by fluxing, it made a bar of gold from six to eight inches long. Reed is known as the first gold miner in the United states, but the Melungeons of North carolina may have been entitled to the distinction.

Miss Dromgoole, the novelist and poet, paid a visit to the Melungeons in Hancock county about 1890. She says that John A. McKinney, of Hawkins county, was chairman of the committee of the Constitutional Convention of 1834, to which were referred matters affecting “free persons of color,” and held that if the phrase meant anything it meant Melungeons. Her opinion was that the amendment to the fundamental law of the state, denying the Mulungeons their oath as well as their right to vote, rendered them desperate. They took themselves to the hills where, huddled together, they became a law to themselves, a race distinct form the several races inhabiting the state, and were soon a terror to the people of the foot hills and valleys, swooping down and stealing their cattle, provisions, clothing, and furniture.

In time they became, almost to a man, distillers of brandy. At the breaking out of the war between the States a few enlisted, but the greater part remained with their stills, and kept up plundering the valleys. “Their mountains became a terror to travelers,” she declares, “and not until within the last half decade has it been regarded safe to cross Melungeon territory.”

“In appearance they bear a striking resemblance to the Cherokees, and they are believed by the people round about to be of a kind of half-breed Indian. Their complexion is reddish brown, totally unlike the mulatto. The men are very tall and straight, with small, sharp eyes, high cheek bones, and straight black hair, worn rather long.

The women are small, below the average height, coal black hair and eyes, high cheek bones, and the same red brown complexion. The hands of the Melungeons women are quite shapely and pretty. Also their feet, despite the fact that they travel the sharp mountain trails barefoot, are short and shapely. Their features are wholly unlike those of the negro, except in cases where the two races have cohabited, as is sometimes the fact. These instances can readily be detected, as can those of cohabitation with the mountaineer, for the pure Melungeons present a characteristic and individual appearance.

On the Ridge proper, one finds only the pure Melungeons; it is in the unsavory limits of Black Water Swamp and on Big Sycamore Creek, lying at the foot of the ridge between it and Powell’s mountain, that the mixed races dwell. So nearly complete has been the extinction of the race that in but few counties of eastern Tennessee is it known. In Hancock you may hear them, and see them, almost the minute you cross into the county line. There they are distinguished as the ‘Ridgemanites’ or pure Melungeons. Those among whom the white or negro blood has entered are called the ‘Blackwaters.’

The ridge is admirably adapted to the purpose of wildcat distilling, being crossed but by one road and crowned with jungles of chinquapin, cedar and wahoo. Miss Dromgoole’s summary is, that they are filthy, and have filthy homes; they are rogues; close, suspicious, inhospitable, untruthful, cowardly, and “sneaky.” More charitable is the opinion of Mrs. Eliza N. Heiskell, of Memphis, whose father, Col. John Netherland above mentioned, was a staunch friend of these apparently down-trodden people.

In an article contributed to the Arkansas gazette, January 14, 1912, she says: “But there is also another people who have lived in the mountains, principally in the Clinch mountains of eastern Tennessee for more than a century; separate and distinct from all others, whose ancestry is shrouded in mystery –the mystery of obscurity. They have lived their simple pastoral life and for more than a hundred years so quietly and obscurely that their name is unknown to many. They are the Melungeons–their very names is a corruption of some foreign word unknown to them or to the few who have given them any study. They have had no poet or seer to preserve their history.

“The Melungeons have a tradition of Portuguese ship and a mutiny, with the successful mutineer beaching the vessel on the North Carolina coast, then their retreat towards the mountains, farther and farther away from the avenging law of man, going on where nature’s barriers were their protection from a relentless foe–swept into this haven by the hand of fate. This strange people seem to have been forgotten by a century of civilization that has left its impress on everything else; They still have some names that suggest the Portuguese ancestry such as ‘Sylvester.’ but their surnames are anglicized to such a degree that to trace them to their originals would be impossible.

“The Portuguese mutineers came to a region almost uninhabited, and because settlers were so few and scattered the strangers were unmolested. Beyond the mountains that hem them in was the institution of slavery; when they went beyond their narrow confines they were in contact with the influence and prestige of the slaveholder. In all slave-holding communities all persons not white, or Indians, were classed as negroes, and the name Melungeon was generally understood to mean a class of mixed-blood but free negroes. This they resented, and insisted on their Portuguese ancestry. By the Constitution of 1834 all persons of color were deprived of the franchise in Tennessee, and by a special act of the legislature these people were given the right to vote.

“To prove they were not negroes, the beautiful hands and feet of some of the race were examined, and the marked difference between them and the negroes decided the question in their favor. “The late John Netherland of Tennessee obtained the right of citizenship for them and their deep gratitude was manifested toward him in every way as long as he lived. “ As a class they are faithful friends. They have a kindly nature, and personal friendship carries a degree of unselfishness that could well be intimated in higher life. Though they resented being considered as negroes, they never presumed to be on an equality with the whites, but were well content to occupy an intermediate ground-a sort of ‘third estate.’ “

They are a shrinking, timid people outside of their own boundaries. During the Civil war a few of them were in Southern army, but most of them were loyal to the Union. When the conscript law was enforced many of them went to Kentucky and joined the Union army, thought there is little military glory in their history. “It is said on authority that the brave Admiral Farragut was a descendant of a Portuguese of that name who married a poor North Carolina girl. “In one respect the Melungeons are like the Irish peasant, in that one of their principal recreations consists in telling and hearing stories, recounting famous neighborhood fights and tales of hunting adventures. They also have many superstitions. They have a firm belief in the powerful influence of the moon and a never-failing fear of ‘ha’nts.’

“In their narratives one is impressed with the smallness of their vocabulary, and at the same time the graphicness of it. Once the Melungeon colony learned that one of their political idols was to spend the night at a certain house. By the time the sun had set the men began to drop in, many having walked miles to enjoy the evening’s entertainment. Seated around the fire, one after another told some experience he had had or seen.

Finally one said to another: “George, the master-lick that I ever seed one man hit another was the lick you hit Shep Gibson!’

“Yes,’ said George–‘you had to hit Shep a master-lick or he would whup you, for he was big and strong and naturally on handy in a fight.’ “Which outlined a situation and stated results in a very few words.

“What will be the ultimate fate of these people no one can tell. As they improve in wealth and opportunity, many of their original characteristics will change. They have already intermarried with some of the mountain people near them, and in all probability in the next two or three generations the name Melungeon will be all that is left of a people whose origin is shrouded in mystery.”

In the sixties of the nineteenth century some of the Melungeons had left east Tennessee mountains. There were a few at Lebanon, Livingston, and Nashville; and a writer in the Nashville banner, for October 12, 1912, makes a statement which indicates that there have been Melungeons who were not false to a trust. A family named Dungee kept a toll-gate on the Charlotte Pike during the war between the States and until 1908. Only faithful employees hold positions so long.